10/06/2004

Eminent domain vote planned
(Marysville CA) Appeal-Democrat, 10/5/04

By Scott Bransford

Marysville officials are expected to decide tonight whether to renew a city agency's power to seize blighted property for redevelopment efforts.

City Council members are set to take a formal vote on whether to reinstate the Community Development Agency's powers of eminent domain, which expired in November of 2003.

The council previously tabled a vote on the matter at a Sept. 28 meeting, when about 25 people turned out at City Hall to protest plans to renew the powers.

Tonight's meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at Marysville City Hall, located at 526 C Street.

City Administrator Steve Casey said the council is expected to move forward with its decision, since city attorneys have addressed the residents' concerns.

"We understand people's concerns but we feel this is a necessary tool for redevelopment," Casey said. "We don't believe there's any threat to any of the folks who have indicated their concerns."

Suspicions still linger over the city's use of its eminent domain rights, which were employed in the 1970s and early 1980s when several historic buildings were torn down to make way for the Mervyn's department store at First and D Streets.

Under state and federal laws, city agencies must renew eminent domain powers every 12 years through a process of public hearings.

If eminent domain powers are renewed by council members, the city would have the power to exercise eminent domain within the city's redevelopment area. The area, which spans 318 acres, is comprised of parcels in south and central Marysville.

Leonard Jones, an owner of Speedometer Electric in East Marysville, said the powers shouldn't be renewed because the city might use them "as a weapon of mass destruction."

"Here we are taking away properties of the middle class to give to rich developers for the benefit of the developer and maybe the agency," Jones said. "I do not believe in eminent domain whatsoever. I'm very adamant about that."

Acting Mayor Paul McNamara feels the city should be able to renew the powers. There are no hidden plans to use the powers for a redevelopment project, he said.

McNamara said the city's experience with Mervyn's provided an example of why the public needs to be included in discussions on redevelopment plans.

"I think the city and the public both learned a valuable lesson there," McNamara said.

However, McNamara said, the controversies of the past shouldn't keep the city from renewing its eminent domain rights. He said the powers would be used only in a worst case scenario, and solely for making downtown Marysville thrive.

Although McNamara said Marysville has no plans that may involve the use of eminent domain, the city is looking at several redevelopment proposals.

One is a 14-screen movie theater proposed by Bay Area developer Ray Olmscheid. The complex, which would be built on the current site of the abandoned Tower Theater, is slated for an area bounded by First, Second, C and D streets.

Officials also are discussing a plan for a Historic Chinese Village, an Asian-themed retail and entertainment complex that Sacramento businessman Jerry Rudloff has proposed for downtown Marysville. A site has yet to be chosen for the development, but Rudloff has proposed building it in Marysville's historic Chinatown, which sits adjacent to the Tower Theater.

McNamara said the city will keep the public informed on the plans.

"I don't think the city would ever do anything behind the public's back," McNamara said.

Also on Tuesday, the Community Development Agency will hold a closed-session meeting with city staff to discuss the possible sale of city-owned property at 308 and 302 Second Street.

The properties sit within areas that have been looked at for both the theater and Chinese village projects.

City Administrator Steve Casey said he could not give any specific details on the possible sale, since the matter will be discussed in a closed-session meeting that will not be open to the public.

Casey said more than one party has expressed interest in buying the properties, but would not identify them.

"It's not a specific project," Casey said. "(There is) interest in the property and it's my job to take it to the council."


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